During the Civil War, the military of both sides became interested in Jamestown's strategic location. In 1861 Confederates thought it was the best point along the James River for defending Richmond.
During Federal occupation, Jamestown became a rendezvous point for escaped slaves, many of whom were evacuated by the navy. When the Union Army left Jamestown, William Allen's slaves burned his eighteenth century mansion.
Jamestown was virtually ignored until 1863 when it became part of a Confederate diversionary movement during the Suffolk campaign. It played a comparable role for Federals in their feint against Richmond during the Gettysburg campaign.
In August 1863 Jamestown assumed a new role as an Federal outpost for Williamsburg, which was the most advanced Union position along the Peninsula. Union forces, including US Colored Troops, patrolled the river and engaged Confederate guerrillas. The telegraph line was reinstalled during the Bermuda Hundred campaign. The telegraph line was improved in June 1864 during the Petersburg campaign. General U. S. Grant extended telegraph communications with a mile-long underwater cable from Jamestown to Swann's Point and then ran wires to Fort Powhatan which was linked to his headquarters at City Point. When guerrillas cut wires, Grant ran an underwater cable twenty-two miles from Jamestown to Fort Powhatan. As the Petersburg campaign continued into autumn and winter, Union troops whose terms of enlistment had expired were sent to Jamestown to guard the island until transportation arrived to take them north.
After General Robert E. Lee's army surrendered at Appomattox, Jamestown was used as a location for administering the Oath of Allegiance to former Confederates.
During my visit, I was shown a spent cap believed to be from an artillery piece. The cap
resembled those used by rifles. It was about the diameter of my finger and was missing the top of the hat. I have not learned what weapon it was used with. Any information would be very useful.
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